Power Rankings: Big East Basketball’s Top 15 Players
Big East's Top 15 Players
With a loaded conference filled with talented teams it’s time to power rank the top 15 players in the Big East.
The conference has seen plenty of action after the first month of the season with as many as five teams being ranked at once in the AP’s top 25 rankings.
The Orange have been led by the play of a super sophomore who continues to put up impressive numbers after already surpassing his totals as a freshman. Meanwhile the Bearcats have been led by one of the conference’s most exciting scorers as Sean Kilpatrick finished with one of the best first months of the season helping Cincinnati maintain its unbeaten record.
The Big East features plenty of teams with a loss already on their record. After one of the best backcourts in the nation featuring Peyton Siva and Russ Smith struggled to take care of the ball against the Duke Blue Devils, the Louisville Cardinals stare up at the Bearcats and Orange with an 8-1 record.
The conference has its share of surprises as well with Otto Porter returning from injury to lead the Georgetown Hoyas to nearly two straight back-to-back upsets in as many days.
While the Connecticut Huskies have become an early season feel good story given their success despite not being eligible for the NCAA Tournament or conference tournament. Their led by the play of their backcourt who have combined to form one of best scoring duos in the country.
With that all said, it’s time to get to the rankings.
The rankings are based on player performance, strength of schedule, team success, and are designed to give an idea of where the player might finish if the conference player of the year was named today. Players who have performed at high levels against strong competition are weighed higher than those who might have higher numbers against considerably weaker competition.
15. Cleveland Melvin
The 6-foot-8 junior currently sits second in the conference in rebounding and sixth in scoring with Melvin averaging 18.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest. Numbers like that would suggest the forward deserves to be a lot higher in the rankings until you factor in DePaul’s 6-3 record. The Blue Demons havn’t beaten one team with a winning record and their three losses all came against teams with winning records, the most notable being their 75-62 loss to the Wichita State Shockers. Still, with three double-doubles and a 30 point game already on the season, Melvin’s performance after the first month of action deserves recognition. If he can maintain similar numbers in conference play, he’ll quickly rise in future rankings.
14. Fuquan Edwin
The 6-foot-6 junior is fifth in the conference in scoring and tied for third in steals averaging 19 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 steals and two assists per game. Edwin has recorded two double-doubles and finished with 20 or more points twice this season for the 7-2 Pirates, including his season high of 27 points along with eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and a block in an overtime loss to the Washington Huskies. Unfortunately Edwin is going to have to face tougher competition before he can get higher in the rankings as Seton Hall has only played two teams with winning records.
13. Ryan Boatright
The six-foot guard alongside Shabazz Napier have combined to form one of the nation’s highest scoring backcourts, averaging 46.3% of the Huskies offense. Boatright leads the team in assists and is second in scoring averaging 14.4 points, 4.6 assists and three rebounds per contest. The sophomore was a big reason why Connecticut opened the season with an upset over the Michigan State Spartans posting 13 points, five steals, four rebounds and four assists in the 66-62 victory. Boatright was also a major reason why the Huskies nearly upset North Carolina State Wolfpack in a 69-65 loss. The guard finished with 18 points, six rebounds four assists and two steals as Boatright tried to do everything he could to win the Jimmy V Classic. The 7-2 Huskies have been a pleasant surprise to begin the year and a big reason for the team’s success has been Boatright.
12. D'Angelo Harrison
Harrison is ranked third in the conference in scoring and 10th in steals and is another player that would see himself higher if he faced stronger competition. The 7-3 Red Storm have beaten teams with winning records but not many were of much significance. That doesn’t make the 6-foot-3 sophomore’s average of 20.2 points per game any less impressive as Harrison has scored in double-figures every game this season. Including his best game of the season in a 72-67 loss against the Murray State Racers where the guard finished with a season high 27 points and nine rebounds. He’s struggled to shoot in his last two games, knocking him down a few spots in the rankings after going only 3 of 12 (25%) and 5 of 16 (31.3%) from the floor in St. John’s previous two outings. If he can find his shooting stroke again and maintain similar numbers entering conference play, he’ll be another player that finds himself rising in the rankings.
11. Brandon Triche
The 6-foot-4 senior is the 8-0 Orange’s leading scorer and sits second in assists with averages of 14.9 points, 4.1 assists, 3.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals. Triche and teammate Michael Carter-Williams combine to form the conference’s best playmaking backcourt with 78.3% of Syracuse’s total assists belonging to the duo. A large portion of that is contributed by Carter-Williams but Triche’s input cannot be overlooked as he averages only a full assist shy of being ranked sixth in the conference compared to his current location of 13th. The guard has proven he can score after finishing with double-figures every game this season but it’s his ability to do a little bit of everything that’s his true value to the Orange.
10. Cashmere Wright
The six-foot guard has literally won games for the Bearcats, including late game heroics in Cincinnati’s closest game of the season. He’s quietly been the team’s second best player with the combination of Wright and Sean Kilpatrick leading the way for the Bearcats 9-0 start to the season. He leads the team in assists, steals and three-point percentage while being second in scoring with averages of 15 points, 3.6 assists, 2.3 steals, and two rebounds while shooting 46.3% from long range. The senior will be expected to carry even more of the scoring load come conference play once defenses start to figure out a way to contain Kilpatrick.
9. Bryce Cotton
The conference’s leading scoring is a stat sheet stuffer despite being only 6-foot-1 and 165lbs. The junior averages 20.8 points, 4.8 assists and four rebounds per contest, raising his scoring total over six points from a year ago. Unfortunately for Cotton the 7-2 Friars have beaten only two teams with winning records as their competition all season long has been far from competitive. Even the team’s they’ve lost to combine to have a record of only 9-7. Still, it’s hard to ignore a guard that began the year with six straight games of 20 or more points, including a 30 point game and a double-double of 24 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. He’s cooled down a bit as of late and will likely cool down more with the tough guard play in conference match-ups, but for now Cotton has earned himself a top 10 ranking.
8. Peyton Siva
The six-foot guard leads 8-1 Louisville in assists and free throw percentage while being the team’s second leading scorer. Siva is ranked fourth in the conference in assists and steals with his averages of 5.7 assists and 2.7 steals to go along with his 10.9 points per game while shooting 87.5% from the free throw line. The senior had a season high six turnovers in the team’s 76-71 loss to the Duke Blue Devils but still finished with 19 points, six steals, four assists and two rebounds. The Cardinals backcourt of Siva and Russ Smith combined for 36 points with the Blue Devils struggling to contain the duo. However, they ultimately failed to hold onto the ball combining for 10 of Louisville’s 15 turnovers in the game. Had the guards managed to commit just one less turnover, the media attention could be jumping all over a different undefeated team.
7. Tray Woodall
The six-foot senior leads the 9-1 Panthers in scoring, assists and steals averaging 14.1 points, 5.6 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals per contest while shooting 50.5% from the field. His assists average is currently good enough for fifth in the conference. Perhaps even more impressive has been the guard’s ability to take great care of the ball recording a total of 56 assists while only committing 17 turnovers. Those numbers result in Woodall recording 3.3 assists for every turnover, a ratio that puts him second amongst the top five assists leader in the conference.
6. Shabazz Napier
Napier was one of the conference’s best players through the first few weeks of action. He opened the season with a statement of 25 points leading the Huskies to an upset over the Michigan State Spartans. He then followed that up in the fourth game of the season finishing with a career high of 29 points. The junior leads 7-2 Connecticut in scoring and steals with averages of 17.2 points, 3.3 rebounds, three assists and 2.1 steals.
Even when the guard isn’t scoring he still finds way to be effective. After failing to score until the seven minute mark of the second half in a win against the Harvard Crimson, Napier still finished with six points, nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals. If coach Kevin Ollie gets a contract extension sometime soon, the first person he needs to thank is Napier.
5. Russ Smith
The conference’s second leader in scoring and steals led Louisville to their most recent win with a career high 31 points to go along with seven rebounds, five assists and five steals. The six-foot guard has been one of the most impressive players in the conference averaging 20.3 points, 3.3 steals, three rebounds and 2.6 assists. Smith hasn’t failed to score in double-figures once this season and after only recording two assists and one rebound in the first three games of the season, averaged 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the next six games. Clearly the six-foot guard is only getting stronger as he partners with Peyton Siva to form one of the nation’s most explosive backcourts.
4. Otto Porter
Porter left Georgetown’s first game of the season after being hit in the head only six minutes in and was forced to miss the team’s next game because of the injury. He quickly put any worries Hoyas fans might have had to rest returning in Georgetown’s 78-70 upset over the UCLA Bruins to finish with a monstrous game of 18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, five blocks and three steals. He’d nearly lead Georgetown to a second straight upset a day later as the Indiana Hoosiers escaped with a 82-72 overtime victory despite Porter’s 15 points, five rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals. Since then Georgetown has apparently forgotten how to score, being held under 47 points in two of the team’s past three victories. Regardless, Porter still leads the team in scoring, steals and blocks while being second in assists and rebounds with averages of 11.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 2.1 steals, 1.7 blocks.
3. Sean Kilpatrick
The conference’s fourth leading scorer has been the biggest reason for the Bearcats undefeated 9-0 start to the season. Kilpatrick currently averages 20 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.8 steals and is shooting 50.4% from the field. He’s scored in double-figures every game of season, including a double-double performance of 15 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. The 6-foot-4 junior delivered a season high 32 points against the Iowa State Cyclones after shooting a perfect 16 for 16 from the free throw line. Kilpatrick had one of the best first months of the season compared to anybody in the nation and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down with a 23 point performance in Cincinnati’s most recent victory.
2. Jack Cooley
The 6-foot-9, 246lbs senior is the conference’s leading rebounder after only failing to record a double-double twice for the 8-1 Fighting Irish. In one of those games he still finished with 16 points and nine rebounds while the other saw a performance of eight points and eight rebounds. Cooley is putting up incredible numbers averaging 14.2 points, 11.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 60.8% from the field. He began the season about as good as any big man could dream with 19 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks. He even did something Mason Plumlee couldn’t do and finished with a double-double against the Kentucky Wildcats with 13 points and 11 rebounds. The rest of the conference will have their hands full trying to keep Cooley contained once conference play tips off.
1. Michael Carter-Williams
No player has had a greater impact on the start the season in the Big East than Carter-Williams and his ridiculous averages of 12.4 points, 10.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, 3.8 steals, and one block per game. He needed just one month to surpass his freshman totals from a year ago as the 6-foot-6 point guard has been the definition of a super sophomore. He just narrowly missed out on a triple-double performance in the 9-0 Orange’s closest win of the season against the Arkansas Razorbacks, finishing with 17 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and three steals. He’s a match-up nightmare for opposing guards with his size and length advantage. His quickness and hustle doesn’t put him at a disadvantage against speedy guards either seeing as if they’d ever manage to get a step on Carter-Williams his wingspan would be the great equalizer.
The rest of the conference will struggle mightily attempting to contain Carter-Williams with the guard failing to record a double-double only twice this season, with both games coming in Syracuse’s first three games of the year.